Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final meeting of the 2019 season. With a dominant lap of the Yas Marina circuit the British driver beat his Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, into second place but the Finn will start from the back of the grid having taken a new engine. Max Verstappen was third for Red Bull with his teammate, Alexander Albon, in sixth. Charles Leclerc was fourth for Ferrari in front of his teammate, Sebastian Vettel.
Seeing out the season in style, Hamilton looked in calm control throughout his final qualifying session to take his first pole for nine races. The Mercedes has looked strong throughout and on Saturday Hamilton ensured he exploited it to perfection.
His first run in Q3 was a fine run but, as has often been the case, he had more to come on his second attempt. With precision he pushed the car to the limit and with a time of 1min 34.779sec closed out the lap almost two-tenths up on Bottas. Verstappen was more than three-tenths back in third.
For Ferrari a difficult season ended with a poor qualifying after Leclerc was backed up on his final out lap such that he failed to cross the start line in time to begin his last run. Vettel was slowing in front of him but he in turn was backing up from Albon. Vettel subsequently struggled for grip on his final lap.
Hamilton’s 88th career pole position is his fifth this season and his fifth at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Despite already taking his sixth world championship he has not claimed pole since the German Grand Prix at the end of July. It will be hugely satisfying at a circuit where he has shown great form in the past, with four wins. Rounding the season off with the top spot ensures he has matched Bottas with five poles apiece while Mercedes have outscored Ferrari by 10 to nine.
With Ferrari resurgent in the second half of the season Hamilton and Mercedes have countered well in recent meetings and did so again at Yas Marina. The British driver will want to close out 2019 with a win, having made a point in recent years of the importance of ending the season on the front foot. Mercedes have the opportunity to finish with a remarkable 15 victories from 21 races with victory here.
Mercedes have won four of the last five races and their car, strong all season through the slower corners, was well-suited to the final sector in Abu Dhabi and their package once more was superior. They remain the only team to have taken pole here since the turbo-hybrid era began in 2015. Hamilton was able to exploit it superbly. He has won 10 times already this season and another victory would match his own record of 11 in a season.
Hamilton will revel in once again making the most of his chances on a track where Mercedes looked to be on top across the weekend. Bottas was quickest in first practice and led a Mercedes one-two in second practice. In the final session on Saturday, however, Verstappen had the edge over both of them.
Bottas has second place in the championship secured but the battle for third remains in play. Verstappen currently holds the place with 260 points, 11 in front of Leclerc.
A win is far from guaranteed but Hamilton will be confident that he will prove even quicker in race pace. His long runs in practice suggested that once more Mercedes have the better car for the Sunday. If he can lead from the front of the grid he will be in every position to dictate the race to the flag.
Bottas will start from the back of the grid having taken two new engines this weekend. Mercedes had started the weekend with a new fourth engine but the Finn took a fifth on Saturday morning when it suffered a pneumatic leak.
McLaren ended their strong season of qualifying well with Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz in seventh and ninth. Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg were in eighth and 10th.
Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez and Lance Stroll were in 11th and 13th. Pierre Gasly was 12th for Toro Rosso with his teammate, Daniil Kvyat, in 14th. Kevin Magnussen was 15th for Haas with his teammate, Romain Grosjean, in 16th in front of the Alfa Romeos of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Räikkönen. George Russell and Robert Kubica were in 19th and 20th for Williams.